The Process of Digital History

Over the course of the semester, we have built digital public history projects from the ground up, so to speak.  We created an idea for a project, prototyped it, storyboarded it, and actually created the digital exhibit.  There were headaches and tears, learning curves, far too many Cokes and candy bars consumed, and, ultimately, celebrations of successes as the project came into fruition.  I’m sure that’s all very similar to working on an institution’s digital history project.  At first, the frustrations came from the hosting site and the Omeka site, and the lack of knowledge about how to work them.  Once that learning curve was handled, creating the exhibits came much more simply.  The more I worked with the software, the easier it became to manipulate.  The image in my head of what I wanted the exhibit to look like and what it actually looked like came together at the end of the semester, which was exhilarating to finally have it all work and make sense.  Journey to the 1936 Olympics is the product of my efforts, and I am very proud of it.

Digital public history isn’t an easy field.  The collaboration that is necessary is staggering.  Just trying to teach myself basic coding and Unix skills to work the hosting and Omeka sites was exhausting, so I can only imagine building a site completely from scratch.  That’s why the collaboration between disciplines is so necessary, or at the very least DPH projects should consult other disciplines.  I enjoy the fact that anywhere in the world, someone could be looking at my DPH project and learning about the 1936 Men’s Olympic 8+ from the University of Washington. There’s something amazing in that realization.  I can imagine that’s how digital public historians feel as they see their projects become public, spread throughout the world with their strategies, and evolve.

Throughout this past semester, I learned a lot about myself and my skills (or lack thereof).  I also started a list of what more I want to learn (basic coding skills is very near the top).  Through the readings and activities of this semester, I learned a great deal about DPH and how institutions are able to spread their messages and exhibits through the digital world and connect them to the tangible world in their museums or collections.  Through networking and social media, these projects can be shared and connected with so many different people that wouldn’t necessarily be able to see them in the tangible world.  Museums and institutions should absolutely take advantage of the increasing technologies and increase their audience by reaching out into the digital world.  DPH is definitely the way of the future, and museums and institutions should plan accordingly.  I’m very glad at the knowledge I have gained through this course, and I’m proud of the project I was able to create.

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